There’s always something to howl about

How to succeed at failure . . .

I wrote this in the Summer of 2001, also. At the time, my friend Richard Riccelli convinced me to sit on it because it’s pretty arch. Even so, this is the counterpoint to Shyly’s delight.

How to succeed at failure

I work in sales, and while I don’t have many role models for success at my job, I am lucky enough to have an immense number of role models for failure. My co-workers fail all day, every day, and they are gracious enough to share ideas with each other about how to fail even more. Watching them and listening to them, I’ve been able to abstract the principles of a whole new self-help discipline: How to succeed at failure.

There is no better field in which to succeed at failure than straight commission sales. If you succeed at failure in education, they make you the principal. If you succeed at failure in politics, they elect you president. But if you succeed at failure in straight commission sales, you slowly starve to death… Top that!

And succeeding at failure in straight commission sales is easier than you think!

Here are a few simple rules:

First, start late and leave early. Some people try to make failure an endurance contest. This is a mistake. If you spend too much time in the office, sooner or later someone is going to buy your product from you just because no one else is around.

In the same way, when you do get to work, immediately do something useless, irrelevant and unproductive. The newspaper is a good bet. So is the restroom. The two together make for a perfect combination. Take your time. The point is to establish to yourself, to your co-workers and to the world that doing business is the last thing on your mind.

Once you get to the office — stay there. Don’t go out looking for business, make the business come to you. Show the customer who’s boss. That way you’ll have plenty of time to complain to your co-workers that customers just don’t appreciate all you’re doing for them.

Find innovative ways to waste your work-day. Do research about things no one cares about. Organize things that no one uses. Implement plans, policies and procedures that will help everyone waste more time.

If you should happen to accidentally step out of the office, be sure to waste your time. Attend useless classes. Take careful notes at irrelevant seminars. Make yourself available for every possible unproductive meeting.

Chances are, this kind of busy-work will endear you to your sales manager. The only measure of success for a salesperson is sales, but it’s more than likely that your sales manager is striving to succeed at failure, too. Your public displays of frenzied unproductiveness will redound to your credit and to his.

Whatever you do, don’t model the behavior of the top producers in your field. They’re doing everything wrong, as everyone hanging around the office will tell you. They might be making a few sales right now, but it can’t last. Besides, they never even have time for the newspaper…

Now you may think this is enough, but it’s not. The simple fact is that even the laziest, whiniest, most unproductive salesperson occasionally makes a sale. It’s not the end of the world, but if you really want to succeed at failure, you have to be prepared for this kind of thing.

First things first: Never, ever prospect. Don’t go out to see people, don’t get on the phone to call people, don’t give out your business card. Don’t engage people to find out if they need your product; some of them will, and then where will you be? Don’t ask your family or friends for business; that’s unseemly. Don’t forge relationships with past customers; you know where that kind of thing leads. The less you look for business, the less you’ll find, and having fewer opportunities to succeed is the first step to succeeding at failure.

But what if you just can’t avoid making a sale? The customer wants the product. Now. At full price. And he wants it so badly, he’s even willing to buy it from you. What now?

First, don’t close. Present forever. A simple rule of baseball is that, when you’ve hit a home run, you stop swinging, drop the bat and run the bases. Don’t do that. If you keep presenting, sooner or later you’ll arrive at an objection the customer hasn’t thought of, and then you’re done.

But suppose you have to close? Gotta get home early, after all. Well then, close badly. Clumsily. Manipulatively. Make your best possible deal look like larceny. Few customers will have the fortitude to overcome a truly loathsome close.

Loathsomeness in general is worth cultivating, if you want to succeed at failure. People buy for a vast array of reasons, but they never, ever buy from someone they don’t like. You can achieve the greatest possible success at the greatest possible failure simply by being the kind of person no one wants to do business with.

And success at failure isn’t just something you do on the job. No, if you master these techniques and apply them in every part of your life, you will successfully fail at everything.

Infinite poverty can be yours.

Boundless misery can be yours.

You can damage every relationship of your life — utterly, irreparably, permanently.

You can do nothing, have nothing, be nothing, just by following these two simple principles of how to succeed at failure:

First, always do what should not be done.

Second, never do the things that should.

If you like, you can seek more information about how to succeed at failure. It’s perfectly safe: No salesman will call…

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